Clip With Care: Why Cutting Your Toenails Matters So Much When You're Diabetic

Have diabetes? You may hear a lot about the importance of taking care of your feet. Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to poor blood flow and nerve damage that makes even the smallest wounds of major importance -- first, because it's easier to cause an injury when you lack sensitivity in your feet, and second, because the decreased blood flow makes healing harder.

When your feet matter so much, your toenails are extra important, too. In order to trim your nails, you need to get close to your feet with a sharp instrument of some sort, and that could be a disaster if you're not careful. Here are some tips for maintaining your toenails without causing harm.

Have the Right Tools

It's true that a sharp clipper or scissors can cause damage to the skin around your nails if you aren't careful, but you can't use a dull tool either. That's because dull clippers may not get a good cut, which will result in tearing the nail. A torn nail can impact the skin around and underneath it, and you may not even know!

A cheap drugstore nail clipper may not be of high enough quality to easily cut your nails, either. Look for a clipper designed for diabetics that is easy to use. You may also choose to use a nail file or emery board to file down the nails rather than cut them. This can limit injury, but it is more time consuming.

Prepare Your Feet

Soaking your feet and nails can lead to easier cutting. But again, like anything to do with your feet when you're diabetic, you need to use caution. Test the temperature of any water before you put your feet in -- use a thermometer to ensure the water is not more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you soak your feet in a specially designed foot bath, limit your time in the water to no more than 5 minutes. This will prevent swelling and skin damage. You may be able to soak for longer in a bathtub, but take precautions to make sure you don't overdo it.

Dry your feet carefully, and make sure there is no moisture between your toes and that the nails are dry.

Cutting Your Nails

When you get ready to cut, make sure you cut the nail straight across. If you cut the edges, they are more likely to re-grow into the skin, leading to ingrown toenails that are tough to fix and get healed.

Don't worry about cutting your nails too short. It's better to do a little at a time and keep them manageable rather than risk nicking the skin.

If you aren't comfortable cutting your nails yourself, talk to your podiatrist about other options. Some podiatrists offer the service themselves, and you can ensure you're not going to lose a toe or run into other problems. Or, your doctor can refer you to a home care nurse who specializes in care for diabetics and can provide toenail trimming services.

For more information, contact Michael Scanlon DPM or a similar medical professional.